San Nicola in Carcere

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Basic data
Patronage : St. Nicholas of Myra
Consecration day : May 12, 1128
Rank: Basilica minor
Parish: Santa Maria in Campitelli
Cardinal Deacon : vacant
Address: Via del Teatro di Marcello 46
00186 Roma

The Church of San Nicola in Carcere ( Latin : Sancti Nicolai in Carcere Tulliano ) is a Roman titular diaconia , national church of the Apulians and Lucanians in Rome and former collegiate and parish church .


The church building stands on the foundation walls of a former Roman temple complex, which was located between the Capitol , Marcellus Theater and the Tiberhafen on the Forum Holitorium, an ancient vegetable market. This temple complex consisted of three buildings that formed a single complex. There is no precise information about the gods worshiped there.

Facade of San Nicola in Carcere with bell tower

The dating of the founding of the church is also scientifically controversial. In the Liber Pontificalis , the existence of a dungeon in the ancient buildings is documented for the time of the pontificate of Hadrian I (772–795) . Most researchers assume that the buildings were used by a Christian community in the late 8th or 9th century .

The first historically secured dates only exist through an inscription in the church that indicates a number of gifts that a Roman priest gave to the church at the time of Urban II in 1088. It is assumed that this inscription enumerates the foundation property. In the year 1099 the church was led under the pontificate of Paschal II with the title holder Ugone as cardinal diaconia.

Side views of San Nicola in Carcere

The church was given its present form largely through a renovation and a new building, which was consecrated in 1128 on behalf of Pope Honorius II . The interior was completely redesigned in the 1590s. The facade of Giacomo della Porta dates from 1599. The medieval bell tower originally served as a defense tower and was rebuilt in the 16th century.

In 1928 the chapter consisting of seven canons was dissolved and in 1934 the parish rights were given by Pius XI. canceled. Since then the church has only been open on Sundays and public holidays.

In 1958 the church was made accessible again for daily worship and in 1963 the chapel on the left aisle was reopened as a prayer room for a miraculous image of the patron saint of Mexico " Our Lady of Guadalupe ".

Name and patronage

In 1087 the relics of St. Nicholas of Myra were brought to Bari , Italy . It was probably one of the first official acts of Urban II , who ascended the papal throne in 1088, to dedicate the church to the popular saint. Since Nikolaus is also the patron saint of the prisoners, the naming of a church in the former dungeon buildings was probably obvious. But the high proportion of the Greek population who lived in this part of the city was also taken into account when the name was given by a saint from the eastern Mediterranean.

regional customs

In the Middle Ages and the early modern period, the church fulfilled important social and religious functions: At the church, young mothers looked after foundlings or gave up their surplus breast milk in order to donate it for orphans or less fortunate young children. This custom of caring for foundlings was probably a mixture of an old legend according to which a daughter offered her breasts to her starving mother, who was imprisoned in the dungeons on the foundations of which the church is located, and the special patronage of St. Nicholas the children.

For a long time the Church had the right to release an inmate on St. Nicholas' Day (December 6th). The lower church was also used for exorcisms until late in the 19th century .

See also


  • Walter Buchowiecki: Handbook of the Churches of Rome. The Roman sacred building in history and art from early Christian times to the present. Volume 3: The churches within the walls of Rome. S. Maria Della Neve to S. Susanna. Hollinek, Vienna 1974.
  • Anton Henze, Kunibert Bering, Gerhard Wiedmann: Art guide Rome. 5th revised edition. Reclam, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-15-010402-5 , pp. 243-244.

Web links

Commons : San Nicola in Carcere  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Diocese of Rome

Coordinates: 41 ° 53 ′ 27.9 ″  N , 12 ° 28 ′ 48 ″  E